Times Television Critic

"Mr. Berrenger, you're wanted in couture!" Oh, don't you love it?

It must be apparent to everyone by now that the one area in which the big three commercial networks excel is good old sophisticated trash.

And now, in the best traditions of "Dynasty" and "Dallas," comes "Berrenger's," NBC's latest cornographic entry into the world of the rotten, wretched rich.

This new series about a New York department store dynasty--patterned after Bloomingdale's debuts with a 90-minute episode tonight at 9:30 p.m., thereafter airing at 10 p.m. That's a Zody's time slot for NBC, which the network is trying to remedy with the usual promotion.

That included having series co-star Yvette Mimieux pop up Friday morning on NBC's "Today," where she was billed as a "French actress" by fill-in host John Palmer.

"Berrenger's" looks like terrific fun. If the premiere is an indication, what it has going for it are beautiful and arresting characters being greedy in glamorous settings, a good cast and excellent production values. It is from Lorimar, house of "Dallas," "Falcon Crest" and "Knots Landing."

A psychoanalyst would have a ball with these prime-time soap operas, which seem to be network moguls' way of disclosing to us that, despite its reputation, life at the top is awful.

Just get a load of this:

The plans of ruthless and handsome Berrenger's chairman Simon Berrenger (Sam Wanamaker) to merge his classy stores with a schlocky chain are opposed by his idealistic and handsome son, Paul (Ben Murphy), who is president of Berrenger's.

Paul is having no luck getting a divorce from his estranged, selfish and beautiful wife (Andrea Marcovicci), so that he can marry beautiful Shane Bradley (Mimieux), who is Berrenger's merchandising vice president. Now are you getting this down?--Shane will not sleep with Paul until he gets his divorce, and she has a private eye looking for her presumably handsome ex-husband, who stole her presumably beautiful daughter.

Meanwhile, Paul's handsome, playboy younger brother and Berrenger's P.R. vice president, Billy (Robin Strand), owes money to hoods, and his beautiful sister, Babs Berrenger Modesto Wright Lincoln De Gaava (Anita Morris), has been married four times and is sleeping with handsome window dresser John Higgins (Jeff Conaway) and encouraging handsome Berrenger's shoe salesman Julio Morales (Eddie Velez) to be a fashion designer for beautiful women.

Also, Babs is despised by her beautiful daughter, Melody (Claudia Christian), who is married to Berrenger's handsome suburban store president Todd Hughes (Art Hindle), who despises all the Berrengers and is in cahoots with the mob-backed chain that wants to merge with Berrenger's.

That's about it, except for beautiful Berrenger's department manager Stacey Russell (Jonelle Allen), whose former roommate, beautiful Berrenger's model Laurel Hayes (Laura Ashton) has a sex-related "secret" and whose beautiful new roommate, naive Ohioan Camille Springer (Leslie Hope), takes a job as a Berrenger's salesgirl in hopes of becoming a sophisticated New Yorker.

That's the problem with "Berrenger's." Too much reality.

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